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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Looking for outside opinions here. 2022 I want to change up my lighting for my yard display. Rather than using as many flood lights to wash light over the cemetery, I want to uplight each tombstone individually. The goal is to have the darkness be darker, which will help some illuminated props stand out better.

I found some awesome looking uplights made for RVs and boat trailers. 18" wide, so I would use 1 per narrow tombstone and 2 per wide tombstone. They are angled so the light shines about 45 degrees, so they should be a decent uplight. $36 each, they run off 12VDC (I run this now for candles) and IP67 so really weatherproof. This would be OPTION 1.

Option 2 is to basically build instead of buy. Waterproof LED strips are $5 for 18", add in the angled track to hold the strip at a 45 degree angle ($5), connectors to let me daisy chain a bunch together ($4/ea), and jumper cables that let me space tombstones up to 3m apart ($2.50). So that is $16.50 per narrow tombstone, $30.50 for a wide one. Throw in $6 for black spray paint and $10 for misc stuff I would need (caulk, heat shrink tubing).

Total cost ... Buying the RV lights is a quick solution, but at a cost of $300 - $400 (depending on if I actually use 2 on each wide tombstone). Building is only $170 but the outcome is less certain (although the homemade solution is dimmable, not sure about the RV lights).

What else am I missing as pros and cons here? What would swing your decision? I did make 30+ flickering LED candles a couple years back, they turned out well and continue to work ... I got a new soldering station recently, too, so you can imagine I am leaning toward build (option 2).
 

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I have a ****-ton (Texas term) of these in different wattages that I use for tombstones and to up-light trees and to wash the front of my house:


10W is the minimum for a single tombstone. They all allow you change the color or even make the color fade over time. I use a combination of colors for different things and I think it adds a lot of interest to our yard. I highly recommend that you NOT try to make your own. It may seem cheaper but I think that when you get all the parts that you need it is easier just to use lights that all have a regular plug to begin with, they are (mostly) made to be outside and will last you several years before its time for replacement. Yes - they are all made in China and they are not top quality - but most of them work for 5+yrs before they crap out. I just buy a few new ones every year. There are newer versions coming out now and you can usually get a 4-pack for less than $60. My suggestion is to buy a few and see how you like them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Check out post photos 22767 in forum link below. I went ahead with buying a bunch of these blue lights to change up my multi-color cemetery. I’ve seen some splendid cemeteries all lit up in blue with different color spotlight on the item you want to pop out.

What did you find/buy today?


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I do like those, I think blue works well in a lot of yards. My neighbor lights her yard in almost all blueish floodlights and it is a great effect.

In 2021 half my yard was dark with only props lit, and I liked it. The cemetery half was lit with led candles and 25W LED floods. It worked but felt more Disney than creepy. This year I want to build a pacing ghost for the porch, so I will need the porch to be really dark (the ghost glows from within, darkness helps hide the mechanism that moves it). That means killing the walkway lights (or putting covers on them to prevent upward light bleed), no floods pointed at the house, and keeping the front windows dark. The porch has a white ceiling so any light pointed up into the porch will reflect back down.

The first pic with the tombstone shows when I tried using just candles to light a tombstone (not enough light) and the second pic is an overall look at the front when I used an LED flood to wash multiple tombstones with light (too much light, was an early set up shot). I really like the effect on the right where it is dark and each prop was lit with a spotlight pointing up.
World Light Blue Purple Font
Plant Light Green Window Purple


I did try blue last year for some aspects of the graveyard ... but I didn't love it in my set up (though it works well for others).
World Purple Light Plant Blue


So ... all that to say ... I think I really need a linear uplight for the tombstones to wash them with light and prevent it from spilling over towards the house. I have 7 or 8 of the LED floods, they just don't focus the light the way I need them to.

I definitely agree that unicolor lighting is the way to go, if I go with cool white LEDs I can add a strip of blue plastic to them to tint the light (translucent plastic), I have had great luck tinting my smaller spot lights with some sepia, green, orange, etc to make the light work better with the prop.

Have you seen any linear led light fixtures for outdoor use in your travels?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I went back to Azon to look AGAIN for lights, and found these:

45W is probably more than I need, but I ordered one to test it out. I really like the adjustable bracket to tweak the angle of the light and the diffuser will supposedly give me an even wash of light. I will have to dig a tombstone out from the shed to verify.

These aren't any cheaper than the trailer lights but they are dimmable, RGB, and have a plug (I will use a sockit box to protect that). Plus they feel like they could do other things if I ever needed them to. They could be home theater lights, or I could put them in the gazebo outside ... it's possible.

Thanks for the nudge to KEEP LOOKING. This feels more worth the $$ for what I need and what they do.
 

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I'll share some of my lighting tips. It's an ever evolving process and I'm learning all the time. Here is last year's cemetery. I have a pretty large yard that wraps 360 around the house so I don't necessarily have to worry about light from one scene bleeding into another scene or prop. Next year I want to spread out the tombstone spacing considerably, try all blue lighting (as I mentioned above), and possibly even move cemetery towards more of the back to make room for a pirate scene. The other big lighting addition is to position several spotlights to up-light the trees.
Plant Purple Window Tree Christmas decoration
Plant Light Window Purple Tree


The two columns are lit with solar landscape lights. They are in a sunny spot so work well. Nevertheless I plan to replace the rechargeable battery with one of greater capacity. I keep some props up year round and here's the solar light on my bucket buddies. It is very effective in that sunny spot.
Snow Plant Freezing Winter Recreation


Any light visible to the eye has a wrapper made from flashing. Last thing you want is the visitor's eye to gravitate towards a light instead of the scene. @Engineerchic This may also help with your light diffusion. I have a few LED lights that are not RGB, either because I like them or they are quite cheap (eg, you can just buy a cheap yard light receptacle at big box store and separate PAR38 bulb, etc). So when I need to change their color, I just cut out a silicone mat and attach with electrical tape. Remember, any light that is too bright can be cut down with some black spray paint spritz from a distance. The pic on right also has some low wattage spotlights in a series. I have a couple sets that are up to five lights, and I only need to use as many lights as I wish. These could be great for lighting up individual tombstones. I just like the fact that I can get five lights on one power cord.
Plant Grass Lawn ornament Wood Water
Plant Plant community Natural environment Branch Wood


This RGB pond light was a great find last year and I'm starting to use it in multiple areas. It has a color changing mode which I used for the cemetery two ghosts on a wire. Also the tombstone breaker skeleton is up-lit by one. One thing I really like is that they have a base which makes it easy to attach light to anything. For example, I was able to zip tie the light to inside my pirate cannon.

Inexpensive low wattage lights were hard to find but I finally landed on motorcycle lights. These are 3 watts:

I won't get into lighting principles but check out the attached Skull and Bone document! Just two mention a couple things though... I like to introduce shadows when it makes sense. Could be on a small scale, e.g. a cemetery piece casting its shadow on a tombstone. Or on bigger scale such as my Wendigo and crouching ghoul shadows on the house.
Plant Window Building Purple Automotive lighting
Purple Plant Flash photography Entertainment Pink


And whenever I have a backdrop such as trees or house, I create visual interest by lighting backdrop with one color and the scene with another. Here is blue on red.
Blue Water Vertebrate Plant Purple
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, the Amzon light did not work. The light was too dispersed and spread WAYYY wide. The light bleed past the tombstones would be crazy. Back to the drawing board!
 

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Here’s a YouTube video that might give you some ideas.


This video does not go into the controller, but you can use just about any arduino-compatible board and there is tons of info on the web how to write arduino code to control rgb strip lights - check out the Adafruit website. And they are super fun to play with!
 

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I do animated light shows for Halloween and Christmas. Last year I converted my LED tombstone lights with Ws-2811 16 light RGB ring lights. I was hoping that 16 lights that I could individually control would allow for effects like fire and water. They do require a little more hardware to run but it is getting more common. Attached is a picture and a link to a test video.Tombstone Test Video Video 2
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I like his construction technique, I may use that! I have found the holy grail of LED lighting for my purpose ... A lens that creates an ellipse of light. The oval shape is 3.25:1 ratio. So I could make an oval where the light is brightest in the middle and falls off to half strength when it is 1' wide and 3.25' tall (for one of the oval shapes available).

In theory, of course. Cost isn't horrible, it is $1.25 for the lens, $6 -$8 for the stupid bright LED or $3 for the reasonable bright one, plus a beefy constant current source to drive it all ($50 to drive 100W, assuming they all run off one supply).

The optics though ... I have no idea I I'm thinking about that right so I need to just get some stuff and work with it. If only there was some free software to model this aspect I would feel better. But heck, it's January, I got time ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I do animated light shows for Halloween and Christmas. Last year I converted my LED tombstone lights with Ws-2811 16 light RGB ring lights. I was hoping that 16 lights that I could individually control would allow for effects like fire and water. They do require a little more hardware to run but it is getting more common. Attached is a picture and a link to a test video.Tombstone Test Video Video 2
Did you do anything (or use anything) to focus the light or collimate it? The ring light looks neat and the price is awesome, I just need to find a way to prevent or minimize light spillover.
 

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Did you do anything (or use anything) to focus the light or collimate it? The ring light looks neat and the price is awesome, I just need to find a way to prevent or minimize light spillover.
It's 50mm flat glass set back about 1/4" in the fitting and caulked in place around the edge)(alibaba if i remember right). The housing is a 2" PVC clean out fitting (which makes it waterproof). The LEDS focus forward along with the 1/4 recess make for very little bleed.
 

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Not sure what your budget is, but I bought these several years ago and they work great. I use the 6w version. they can be dimmed and change to whatever color you want. They are rgb/led so very low watts. I used lamp cord and vampire plugs daisy chained around my yard to individually light each tombstone as well as other small props.

They had a 4 pack at one time that I think was around $45.00.
 

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If you're on a tight budget, and don't mind doing some of your own wiring, Eagle Light LEDs are certainly an option.


 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If you're on a tight budget, and don't mind doing some of your own wiring, Eagle Light LEDs are certainly an option.


Oh wow, they even have UV ones! So tempting. I am not afraid of wiring, I built almost 3 dozen flickering LED candles and they all still worked for their 3rd Halloween ;). I might buy a couple of these and see if sticking them in a long enough housing focuses the beam enough. Man ... A UV spotlight would be pretty darn awesome.

Thanks!
 

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@Engineerchic - please excuse my ignorance. From your photos it appears that on the left part of your yard you have some huge floodlights that are lighting your tombstones as well as your patio. I understand that photographing the effects of lighting is tough, but can you post photos of the lights you were using for this photo and the distance the lights are from your tombstones? You say that have have tried the LED floods for individual tombstones but you don't like how they work - can you elaborate? I have been using the 10W rgb floods for my tombstones for years and each stone is essentially independent of any other lights and even though most of our tombstones are within 5' of the house I see very little "bleeding" of the lights onto the wall of the house. I am having a hard time understanding why a small flood in front of each stone does not accomplish what you are looking for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
@Engineerchic - please excuse my ignorance. From your photos it appears that on the left part of your yard you have some huge floodlights that are lighting your tombstones as well as your patio. I understand that photographing the effects of lighting is tough, but can you post photos of the lights you were using for this photo and the distance the lights are from your tombstones? You say that have have tried the LED floods for individual tombstones but you don't like how they work - can you elaborate? I have been using the 10W rgb floods for my tombstones for years and each stone is essentially independent of any other lights and even though most of our tombstones are within 5' of the house I see very little "bleeding" of the lights onto the wall of the house. I am having a hard time understanding why a small flood in front of each stone does not accomplish what you are looking for.
Sure - the LED floods I have are Novostella color changing 25W lights (I do not have a photo of the actual lights, unfortunately). They have a lot going for them, they're dimmable and controlled via phone app.

While I can dim the intensity, I can't change the size of the emitter ... It's an array of 3x6 LEDs and has a wide spread. This year I made little fake rocks to act like shields to prevent sideways light spread. And it helped a lot when lighting the cemetery from the front corners because I was able to keep light away from the road. I think the lights were about 20' in front of the tombstones based solely on using a 25' extension cord to reach there and I have well under 2 car lengths along the driveway in that spot (ETA - I found a pic, the light on the right side was a lot closer ... maybe 10-12'? The light on the other side was closer to the road, I think).
Plant Building Window Tree House

When I used the Novostellas as floods, I had 2 that washed the tombstones from the left and right (one on each side of the run). To put them right up near each tombstone I need to buy 4-6 more, or, find another way that is smaller and more discreet.

I know the normal way to do this is with lights that you aim up so extra light shoots off into the distance. My issue with that is that the porch ceiling is white and so light that comes from below bounces back and makes the porch brighter than it should be. If I could find a way to cover the ceiling with black microfiber that would help. But instead I'm trying to find a way to light just part of the tombstones.

A couple options came in today, I'll try to assemble them and test drive each one. If I can make it work, I think it would be a great effect. A small, powerful light source with minimal bleed would maintain the spooky effect but still let people see the detail of a prop.

I think my LED floods aren't the right choice because their emitting area is too large and the angle is too wide, I can see that a 10W source would be better than a 25W source. I just want to try how it would look if an oval light illuminated the face of the tombstone - and see if I can build them for less than buying them (I did buy some Eagle Eyes to see if I can use a lens made for SMD LED on those).

ETA a pic of the kinds of shapes possible with different LEDs and optics, this is a skinnier rectangle than I want but it shows the wow factor of optics.
Font Screenshot Software Technology Electronic device
 

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I do like those, I think blue works well in a lot of yards. My neighbor lights her yard in almost all blueish floodlights and it is a great effect.

In 2021 half my yard was dark with only props lit, and I liked it. The cemetery half was lit with led candles and 25W LED floods. It worked but felt more Disney than creepy. This year I want to build a pacing ghost for the porch, so I will need the porch to be really dark (the ghost glows from within, darkness helps hide the mechanism that moves it). That means killing the walkway lights (or putting covers on them to prevent upward light bleed), no floods pointed at the house, and keeping the front windows dark. The porch has a white ceiling so any light pointed up into the porch will reflect back down.

The first pic with the tombstone shows when I tried using just candles to light a tombstone (not enough light) and the second pic is an overall look at the front when I used an LED flood to wash multiple tombstones with light (too much light, was an early set up shot). I really like the effect on the right where it is dark and each prop was lit with a spotlight pointing up.
View attachment 758590 View attachment 758591

I did try blue last year for some aspects of the graveyard ... but I didn't love it in my set up (though it works well for others).
View attachment 758592

So ... all that to say ... I think I really need a linear uplight for the tombstones to wash them with light and prevent it from spilling over towards the house. I have 7 or 8 of the LED floods, they just don't focus the light the way I need them to.

I definitely agree that unicolor lighting is the way to go, if I go with cool white LEDs I can add a strip of blue plastic to them to tint the light (translucent plastic), I have had great luck tinting my smaller spot lights with some sepia, green, orange, etc to make the light work better with the prop.

Have you seen any linear led light fixtures for outdoor use in your travels?
Great illustration!

I LOVE your sea serpent !
 
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